Food Banks Expect Onslaught, Worry About Food Shortages

CORONAVIRUS EDITION

Food Banks Expect Onslaught,

Worry About Food Shortages

Oneonta’s Lord’s Table Serving Only Takeout

Sal Fornabaio, Oneonta, and, behind him, Ron Johnson, Cooperstown, serves Chuck Garido, Oneonta, at the Lord’s Table, which this week switched from sit-down dinners to takeout only. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – With the kids home and many workers facing temporary layoffs as Coronavirus quarantines shutter businesses and send workforces home, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Walton Levitt, Coordinator, Hunger Coalition, is anticipating a higher demand on food pantries and feeding ministries.

“So many people are one disaster away from food insecurity,” she said. “A lot of people are losing paychecks, and they may have a little saved away, but in a couple of weeks, that rainy day fund runs dry.”

But when their clients need them – even just as a stop gap until work starts again – the food pantries of Otsego County are ready to step up.

“We’re encouraging people to come get food,” said Polly Renkins, director, Richfield Springs Food Pantry. “We have it to give, so don’t be shy.”

Clients at the Richfield Springs Food Pantry can get one box a week. “All they have to do is register at the door,” she said. “It’s just name, address and number of people in your family.”

“We ask people if they are allergic to peanut butter, fish or pork,” said Joyce Mason, who runs the Lord’s Table food pantry and feeding ministry at St. James Episcopal Church in Oneonta. “Right now, we’re giving a lot of things to help stretch their meals, like bags of beans and lentils.”

The Lord’s Table serves 10-15 households at the pantry.

“We’ve been busy over the last few days,” said Julia Purdue, director, Cooperstown Food Pantry. “We’re seeing people come in from the Northern part of the county, but we’ll serve anybody at least once.”

Purdue said that while there is plenty of food to go around, they are facing a shortage of bread and fresh produce. “Ours comes from Price Chopper, and they’re running low themselves,” she said. “We normally let our clients come in once a week for that, but now, we have to limit it to once a month.”

All food pantries, however, have changed the way they’re distributing food, opting to create food boxes for clients, rather than allowing clients to “shop” their shelves.

“We meet the clients at the door and go over a checklist of what we have, then we get it for them,” said Purdue. “We bring the boxes out on a metal cart, they pick it up and take it to their car, and then we disinfect the cart. We want to minimize contact as much as possible.”

Similarly, feeding ministries are having to re-think the way they serve clients. “It’s take-out only at the Lord’s Table,” said Mason. “On the first night, we served 40 people. It went pretty well.”

Though the Lord’s Table is normally open until 6:30 p.m., with no seating, they’ve reduced the hours from 4:30-5:30, Monday – Friday. Saturday’s Bread and Salvation Army are also doing take-out meals at their sites.

The Office of the Aging has closed their Senior Meal Sites throughout the county, but is offering seniors a chance to get their home delivery service, which brings a week’s worth of frozen meals directly to their door.

“We’re well-prepared and fully functioning,” said Tamie Reed, director, Otsego County Office for the Aging. “We’ve expanded our criteria for receiving home delivery so that people who use our meal sites will now be eligible.”

To register for home delivery of meals, seniors can call (607) 547-4232.

All pantries are still accepting donations of either food or money. “We had people offer to buy toilet paper online and have it shipped to us,” said Purdue. “Our clients can’t find what they need at the grocery store.”

And with many of their volunteers staying home, there are opportunities for furloughed workers and college students to help give back. “It’s a day to day situation,” said Mason. “We’re always short of volunteers.”


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